Florida: the land that can't follow arrows

Posted: Nov 11, 2000 12:00 AM
This country is suffering from a surplus of irony and a deficit of shame. And things promise only to get worse until this election is settled. Shame? Start with that noted good-government maven Bill Daley -- Gore campaign chairman and son of the late Chicago Mayor Richard Daley of voter-fraud fame. Yesterday, a righteous Daley announced that the Gore campaign would stand against "the disenfranchisement of thousands of Floridians." Who are those disenfranchised Floridians? Some 19,000 Palm Beach County voters who proudly proclaim that they couldn't understand a simple voting ballot, the now-famous butterfly ballot, even though an arrow pointed to the hole punch for Al Gore. Rather than ask for a new ballot, they voted for both Gore and pitchfork pol Pat Buchanan, they claim, thereby disqualifying their own votes. It's hard to figure which is more disturbing: the fact that many of these people drive automobiles, even though they can't follow an arrow, or that so many people have been willing to go on television to admit that they misunderstood simple instructions, voted twice in the presidential election and didn't bother to correct their mistakes at the polling place. An estimated 268,945 Palm Beach County voters actually figured out how to vote for the Gore-Lieberman ticket, but by the time this controversy is over, expect a quarter of them to have appeared on television saying they think they voted for the wrong candidate. Team Bush dug up some information that truly casts a shadow on Palm Beach voters. In 1996, it turns out, the county rejected 14,872 ballots for similar problems. Let us cede this much: Democrats should never make fun of the intelligence of Republicans again. There is no reason to believe there was fraud in Palm Beach. The county election supervisor who is behind the design of the ballot is a Democrat. Sample ballots were sent to voters, who had a chance to study their ballots before they voted. None of the above matters. Nor does it matter that there is no sign of fraud in Palm Beach electioneering. Still, Team Gore has threatened that, having lost those needed votes, it to fight for a court for a ruling to overturn the vote, perhaps resulting in a revote. It is too typical. They didn't win by following the rules, so they want to change the rules, even after the game has been played. The truly scary part: There may be recounts in Iowa, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Oregon has a close count and is still counting ballots. If Democratic voters in counties in those states don't like their ballot forms, if they make mistakes which they claim robbed them of their franchise, do they get to vote again, too? What if Republicans whine that they would have gone to the polls if they knew their guy wasn't losing? Do they get a second chance? Bush League, to its credit, wouldn't ask for a second-chance vote. It limits its folly to leaking news of the dream Bush Cabinet, even as the Dems try to delegitimize a Bush victory, if there is one. Some Republicans have pushed Gore to cede Florida if he loses the recount. Wrong. Gore has every right to ask for a hand count. He owes it to his supporters to make sure that he gets credit for every legal vote for his campaign. The same goes for George W. Bush. If he wants a recount, he should ask for one. Meanwhile, Gore should not go to court, or threaten to sue, to try to change votes that may have been unintended, but were not the result of deliberate fraud. Keep it up, and history will brand Al Gore the greatest poor loser in American history.